From falling in love with Argenta to falling in love with her husband, Alyssa Mraz's passion for Argenta is strong! And now we're lucky to have Alyssa's passion and vision present on the Argenta Downtown Council board as our Treasurer/Secretary.
ADC: How did you first get involved in the Argenta Arts District as a volunteer?
Alyssa: I originally started volunteering with Donna Hardcastle, and I believe it was through a Young Professionals Group through the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce. Donna asked me to sign up for future volunteer opportunities and my first event was the Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival. Then I kept signing up for all the events! I became a regular go-to volunteer from the Hog Roast music festivals to St. Patrick's Day. Everyone knew that I like to give back to the community, so I joined the Tulip Planting Team and it all just grew from there!
ADC: And then how did you transition from event volunteering to being a part of the board?
Alyssa: I met Chris Kent before he was the ADC Executive Director. He and I were both volunteering at the Argenta Community Theater. I attended different theatre events, whether it be at The Joint, Argenta Community Theater, or other live performances in Argenta. Chris and I would always run into each other, and we just started talking about how we loved Argenta. Once he transitioned to his new role, I let him know that since I'm embedded in Argenta, it's important to continue to be involved and keep me in mind for anything I can do to participate more and be more a part of the community. I'm a North Little Rock native and I feel like Argenta is the heart of the city, my hometown.
ADC: What unique perspective are you adding to the board that will help the mission of Argenta?
Alyssa: So, I love being on the board, but I also like that I am not a business or someone who lives in Argenta because I feel like I bring a little bit of a fresh perspective to someone who visits Argenta. Many of the visitors to Argenta are not from there. They come for dinner, live performances, art, and so much more. My goal when I was nominated to be on the board was to bring that outside perspective because I've always been a little bit of an outsider, even though I'm from North Little Rock. I have had so many wonderful Argenta experiences, including meeting my husband. And so, for me, I just wanted to be able to bring that outside perspective. Since I've been volunteering for probably six or seven years now, I feel like a part of the community. I think that Argenta does an excellent job of welcoming everyone!
ADC: That's excellent! If you were to talk to someone, and you may have done this already in your role on the board, about becoming a sponsor or donating or even if it were a membership opportunity, what is it that you would tell them? Why should they join? What would it mean for them to be a part of Argenta at that level?
Alyssa: I think if I talk to someone about becoming a sponsor, first I want them to come to Argenta. That's the best way to "get" the Argenta Vibe. Once they spend time here, they will get what it means to be a part of and support the community. Even if they aren't from here and are visiting, I would tell them they've got to go to Argenta. Like, I'm going to send you an address! Start here, walk around. If you can get someone in Argenta to see and feel the same things I do, it's easy to ask to be part of something so exciting. Especially with all the Argenta Community has accomplished over the past several years.
ADC: Now, usually, I would ask you what's your Argenta story, but for you, it's unique because it's a love story too. Can you share that with us?
Alyssa: Yes! So, you know, I volunteered in Argenta before I met my husband. We had met at the North Little Rock Chamber FYI Luncheon on Cinco de Mayo, and two years later, we got married at the Baker House on Cinco de Mayo. First, though, we were engaged at Flyway Brewing in Argenta. We think it's really cool that we met in Argenta, got engaged in Argenta and then married in Argenta. I feel like everyone can make their own little love story in Argenta because there are so many ways to do so. We were the first wedding at The Baker! Then we returned to celebrate our first anniversary.
ADC: Share with us what your favorite thing to do, eat, spot or event might be in Argenta. You don't have to narrow it down to just one!
Alyssa: I mean, I can't say a favorite! I love the tulips. It's what first drew me to the community. I've been planting all these years. In the last couple of years, I've taken on some of the responsibility by helping coordinate the Tulip Festival. This last year, we had the most volunteers. We planted a little earlier this year, in November and now we are seeing all the fantastic colors. It's really exciting! I love how we all gather after the planting to fellowship and have amazing food and drinks. It's really a way to connect and it's very cool how many people volunteer for the event.
ADC: You are very supportive of the community and have a heart for volunteering. Are you involved in other non-profits?
Alyssa: I am. I've been part of the North Little Rock Chamber through Vanguard and the Young Professional group. I'm also on the board at CASA, a fantastic organization that provides court-appointed advocates to kids, usually in the foster care system. Our volunteers act as a voice for kids that sometimes don't have a voice and help them have the best possible outcome. So maybe that's reuniting with their family members who perhaps had to go through some changes to be better parents or need a safe place to be or just support as they grow up. Sometimes they're teenagers and need help getting a job and don't know where to go to do all of these things that we're kind of on their plates a little bit sooner than other young people. They're carrying this burden alone when usually people have family members to help them. I love being a part of a group of people who can support these kids when they need it.
ADC: It's evident that you have a huge sense of community through your volunteer work at the NLR Chamber, ADC and CASA. Amazingly, you hold space for helping others, no matter what's going on in your own life. And I know the ADC is very lucky to have you on the board!
ADC: Tell us about your passion that you also get paid to do?
Alyssa: I'm an HCM consultant, so HCM stands for Human Capital Management. I sell payroll and human resources software. I've been in this for about seven years now. I worked with primarily small businesses early on, and then when I transitioned to Paylocity, Inc., I started working with mid to large, sometimes enterprise-size organizations. I love what I do, being able to help companies, especially their C-suite and their HR departments, create a healthy work culture. It's not just about giving them tools that can make them more efficient and have a better return on their investment, but it's about their people. Sometimes it's through community groups, like Elevate Your Passion, which helps provide grants so employees can nominate non-profits that they are passionate about. And a couple of years ago, I did that for the Centers for Youth and Families, and they got awarded five hundred dollars. And so each quarter, Paylocity picks different organizations that get nominated through the employees. I think it's so cool how our company gives back like that!
ADC: I believe I remember that you have an Argenta fur baby, correct?
Alyssa: We have two! I have one here with me now; her name is Coco, short for Coconut. She's an Australian shepherd. We only use her full name when she's not minding, but usually, we call her Coco. But sometimes, she acts like a nut! She is 14 now, but you would think she just reverted to being a puppy every once in a while.
ADC: Does she get to visit Argenta with you?
Alyssa: She does. She likes to go and sit outside Flyway when they have Tent City. It's perfect and they always have water bowls for the puppies. She does love that there are usually other dogs there, too. We'll get takeaway from one of the restaurants and walk over to the outdoor area at the Argenta Plaza. We love the outdoor dining areas in Argenta. It's so lovely, especially at sunset.
ADC: What do you hope to see in Argenta's future, whether it be an event or a new kind of business or a particular type of growth?
Alyssa: Selfishly, because of a soon-to-be new addition to our family, I look forward to seeing Argenta continue to grow as a family-friendly place to visit. More family-friendly events specifically. I love that I can walk around with my dog and see other people doing the same thing. I took my niece to Flyway, a great place for the entire family, even though it's a brewer. Having more family-friendly crosswalks, especially for a stroller or anything else, I would like to see.
ADC: What do you see as the biggest challenge for Argenta?
Alyssa: I think one of the challenges I see is doing more of what we find is successful and creating more diverse opportunities.
ADC: What do you like most about working with Chris Kent?
Alyssa: I feel like he is so present in Argenta. I mean, everyone who lives and works there knows who Chris is, like he is the unofficial mayor of Argenta, at least that's what we call him. He takes feedback. Chris also finds ways to work around or through obstacles we might encounter while creating the Argenta Vibe. He works within this challenge. Part of our success is how we handle obstacles, like creating the Outdoor Entertainment District during the pandemic.
ADC: What is an Argenta hidden gem, something that maybe isn't so publicly out there about Argenta that you would love everyone to know about?
Alyssa: I feel like sometimes people don't realize how much value The Innovation Hub brings because it's kind of off the main road. The Hub is an excellent resource for start-ups, entrepreneurs or small businesses. And the murals! Argenta Arts District is all about supporting local artists and the murals are a great way to showcase their work. The public art tour is totally free and our murals are growing quickly. There's so much to see! Oh, one last thing, Crush Wine Bar has a patio that is a hidden little gem and so cute.
ADC: Is there anything else you would like to share or maybe something that I forgot to ask you?
Alyssa: Just that everyone should be looking for all the amazing experiences we have coming up this year. 2022 is going to be a BIG year in Argenta!
For more information on how to get involved with the Argenta Arts District or for upcoming events, visit www.argentaartsdistrict.org.